By Bret Piatt
May 8, 2018
This past Saturday, May 5, episode 84 of Cyber Talk Radio hit the air on 1200 WOAI and iHeartRadio streaming. With all of the media focus on data privacy especially with Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, testifying before Congress and privacy legislation discussions related to ISPs, I decided to do a monologue episode to talk through the reality of data privacy and what you should be aware of as a consumer and business owner.
What is actually going on out there from a data collection perspective? If you don’t want anyone to know about it, perhaps you shouldn’t be doing it. This is very true, especially when it comes to your activity on the Internet. The concept of free services that are powered by the economics of advertising are not new. Depending on the advertising channel, demographic data is constantly being collected in different ways whether it’s online, a billboard, radio or TV. Does it make sense to put controls on data collection from a public policy perspective? Self regulation? You might be okay if your credit card company tracks your purchases to offer you deals or up sell you, but how can you stay safe on the Internet and keep your online activity private? The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) recently wrote a blog post about a key distinction that Mark Zuckerberg made in his testimony to Congress around what we expect from our Internet Service Providers (ISPs, such as AT&T, Comcast or Verizon) as opposed to platforms like Facebook that operate online. This kicked off my idea for having this monologue episode and dive into the reality of data privacy and how technology communicates from top to bottom.
In the second half of the show, I dig into who can watch what you are doing online and how. If you are paranoid and have decided to use a virtual private network (VPN) to block your ISP from seeing what you do on the Internet, well you actually can’t block them from seeing everything. I talk through a few different example scenarios around how your ISP can still collect information from your usage and patterns. ISPs have the capability to know and be able to track your data trails. They can see all of the things you are doing at the application layer. In the U.S., there is not a lot of data privacy protection. For the average Internet user, your ISP knows what websites you visit, how often you login to your bank, how many hours of Netflix you stream and more. If your ISP is also your cable TV provider, well they can tell how much Hulu/Netflix streaming you might be doing to estimate churn risk of lowered cable usage vs increased usage of Internet to stream. Creepy, right?! How many people know how to configure their Domain Name System (DNS) settings? There are secure DNS services like Cloudflare, however, even with using a DNS service (which can be complicated) you can’t change DNS settings on your cell phone. Metadata from your cell phone usage habits can be used to determine different buying and usage patterns. Is it evil to collect this information to flag or advertise things that you might enjoy? This information can also be used maliciously which is evil. To listen to the episode replay to learn more about data privacy and things to keep in mind, go here or watch below.**
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